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5 things we learned from the Chiefs’ comeback win against the Browns

Kansas City’s backups shined in the final preseason game of the year.

NFL: AUG 26 Browns at Chiefs Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In their final preseason game of 2023, the Kansas City Chiefs returned home to GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, playing what turned out to be one of the more entertaining preseason games in recent history — and escaping with a one-point victory over the Cleveland Browns.

Here are five things we learned from Saturday’s game.

1. Maybe the Chiefs have two backup quarterbacks

Cleveland Browns v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

It says something that with quarterback Patrick Mahomes getting the day off, head coach Andy Reid gave the start to third-year player Shane Buechele. It was the second straight week in which he entered the game before 12-year veteran Blaine Gabbert.

Early in the game, Buechele struggled to move the ball. He threw two interceptions — one of them a pick-6. It didn’t help Buechele’s case that he was playing with his team’s second-string offense against the Browns’ starting defense.

So Buechele spent the better part of the first half under pressure as the offensive line struggled to give him a clean pocket in which he could work. Under those conditions, it would be hard for any quarterback to compete for a job. But Buechele ended the day on a hot streak, leading the Chiefs on a 90-yard touchdown drive.

Still, I still think Gabbert outperformed Buechele. The longtime veteran looked more comfortable in the pocket and got the offense in a nice rhythm. Despite throwing an ugly pick-six of his own, Gabbert seemed more willing to push the ball downfield — and was able to recognize situations where the secondary was put into conflict.

At the end of the day, I feel pretty good about either one of these guys filling in for Patrick Mahomes. I think Kansas City will carry both on their initial 53-man roster and let the situation dictate who plays. If Mahomes gets knocked out of a game, I could see Reid turning to Gabbert’s steady hand. But if Mahomes is out for an extended period of time, I could see Reid opting to roll with Buechele’s upside.

2. La’Michal Perine should make this team

Cleveland Browns v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Earlier in the week, I wrote about Perine’s rise up the depth chart. Heading into this game, most observers had his chance to make the team somewhere between “slim” to “none” — and leaning towards “dead in the water.”

But making the most of an opportunity is nothing new to Perine. Coming out of high school, he was ranked as 493rd among the nation’s running backs. Former Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn told him he was too slow to be an SEC running back.

That’s funny now — because on Saturday, Perine looked fast, agile and smooth with the ball in his hands. He made the most of his four carries by gaining 32 yards — and added another 44 yards receiving (and a touchdown) on three targets.

Perine has built his career on maximizing every opportunity. This guy simply does not blink when his number is called. But on Saturday, did he do enough to earn his way onto the Chiefs?

I think he did.

3. The Chiefs should consider keeping eight wide receivers

Cleveland Browns v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

At one point this offseason, most thought Kansas City was going to keep six wide receivers. But with the emergence of Richie James and Justyn Ross, most agreed that there was too much depth in this receiving room. So we expanded our expectations, deciding that the Chiefs were going to keep seven receivers.

I mean seven had to be enough to keep all of the guys who deserved to be on the roster, right?

And then Ihmir Smith-Marsette said, “Hold my beer.”

The third-year pro proceeded to catch eight passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns over the last two weeks.

I mean, Kansas City can’t keep eight receivers... right?

The short answer, of course, is no. The team can’t do it unless it is willing to make sacrifices elsewhere. Unfortunately, Smith-Marsette has been so good that you have to believe he won’t make it back to the Chiefs practice squad if he’s waived.

Some other team is sure to snatch him up... right?

4. The Chiefs have good chemistry

Cleveland Browns v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

It all starts at the top.

Late in a preseason game in which he was never going to play, Mahomes was standing on the sideline in full pads, giving a television interview. Then Kansas City defensive back DiCaprio Bootle intercepted a pass. Mahomes had to interrupt the interview. “Oh doggone,” he said, “there’s an interception!”

When was the last time you saw a franchise quarterback who was not playing in a preseason game wear full pads on the sideline? Certainly not in Dallas.

Las Vegas Raiders v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

After the play, Bootle was surrounded by a group of his teammates to celebrate the turnover — including starters Trent McDuffie, Isiah Pacheco and Skyy Moore. There seems to be genuine camaraderie on this team. These guys seem to actually like playing together.

5. Rashee Rice needs to stop dropping the ball

NFL: Preseason-Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The second-round rookie wideout has five drops in three preseason games. That’s the same number that Marquez Valdes-Scantling had in all of 2022. If Rice keeps up this pace, he will have 28 dropped passes in 2023, which would blow Terrell Owen’s current record of 17 right out of the water.

That doesn’t mean we should hit the panic button on Rice; all other signs point to him being a dynamic playmaker in the Chiefs’ offense. But he needs to get on the Jugs machine so he can sort out whatever concentration issues he has before his team takes on the Detroit Lions in Week 1.

That’s just a week from this Thursday.

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